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ACLU Critical of Nevada Work Card Rules

9 September 2002

by Jeff Simpson

LAS VEGAS--New statewide casino work card rules now being drafted by Nevada gaming regulators were criticized Friday by the American Civil Liberties Union of Nevada.

The civil libertarian group objects to new rules that ACLU officials believe don't adequately protect privacy rights of gaming workers.

The dispute arose as regulators try to write regulations to implement a streamlined state work card system for casino workers and other gaming employees. State lawmakers passed Assembly Bill 466 last year, intended to allow casino workers to take jobs in any Nevada county or city without having to apply for a new card.

Currently, work card applicants apply for the cards in the city or county in which they work.

If they take a casino job in another jurisdiction, the card doesn't transfer; the worker must make a new application and pay another fee.

Housekeepers and most workers involved in noncash handling casino jobs don't have to get work cards, while gambling workers and other money-handlers in the resort industry do.

The proposed rules would create a uniform statewide work card application and would allow work card holders to change casino jobs without having to file a new work card application or pay a new fee.

But the ACLU wants the rules to have provisions that would protect the material gathered during the course of a work card investigation from being released to other government agencies.

"These rules aren't being drafted so that a dossier can be created on a person in the gaming industry," ACLU General Counsel Allen Lichtenstein said to the three-member Gaming Control Board at its Friday meeting in Las Vegas. "The question you have to answer is 'What happens to these people's records?' They're law-abiding citizens."

Control board members said they understood the ACLU and Lichtenstein's concerns, but said that they were powerless to restrict access to the work card records more than the limits already included in Nevada laws written by the Legislature.

"I don't know that we have the authority to usurp the Legislature," member Scott Scherer said. "If we get into that, and limit law enforcement agencies in ways different than (Nevada statutes) I believe we'd be usurping the Legislature's authority."

Panel member Bobby Siller and Chairman Dennis Neilander concurred.

Said Siller: "You've raised serious constitutional issues, but I'm not sure the (Control) Board or the (Nevada Gaming) Commission are the proper forums for addressing the issues."

"I'm concerned that we would be essentially amending a statute with broad applicability," Neilander added. "We'd be overstepping our bounds."

Lichtenstein said that the regulators had the power to restrict access to gaming work card records.

"I think the scope of your magnate is broader than you do," he said.

The draft rules are slated to be sent to the Nevada Gaming Commission for adoption, likely in October, in order for the rules to be adopted before the Jan. 1 implementation date set by the new law.

Lichtenstein said he understands why regulators are unwilling to change their minds and limit access to the work card records.

"They're passing the buck," the lawyer said, noting that the ACLU is likely to ask the 2003 Legislature for statutory protections for gaming work card records.

"This is information that will be treated just like criminal histories, but these people aren't criminals," Lichtenstein said. "They have a right to protect their privacy."

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